Experience teach you many things in life. Struggling and coping with ulcerative colitis has taught me a number of lessons which otherwise would not. Books and experiences of others inform you many things. Seldom, we make them our own.
One of the blessings that I have received with my prolonged illness is a lot of sympathy and kind words and sometimes good deeds. When a person is ill for a long time, many come to see and would like to talk to the person while in agony. Often such talks become unbearably painful, irritating and even distressing when a visitor unable to read the mind of the patient. I appreciate always visits by those whom I know and who are somehow connected with my life. I’m not at ease with those people whom I do not know and have to do anything either with my life or life of my friends or my mission/apostolate. Moreover, I find myself very difficult to answer those people whenever they have questions on my disease or on my life itself. Everyone should practice some do’s and don’ts while visiting a person who is suffering from illness for a long time and all the more when the person is young.
Every one has good intentions while visiting the sick person but it would be extremely good how the visiting person could be a better help than a hindrance in alleviating the pain and suffering of the patient.
I would suggest following things which you might help concretely and pragmatically.
Things may not be easy for you but you can do loads of things and these tips might help you.
- Good to know who the patient is and what kind of terminal disease s/he is suffering from. Sick person does not like to show himself/herself as sick but instead likes same things as before.
- Please don’t ask but just do seeing the needs: Often people give tips to the patient what he should do and shouldn’t do including suggesting a different doctor or hospital without knowing the patient’s sickness. The best thing you can do is instead of asking “how can I help you” just provide the food the patient likes, books to read, music the person might enjoy, take the person out for some sight seeing, a movie or to a park and so on.
- Do not spiritualise his/her sickness: Don’t say “God has given you this sickness to purify you,” “to make you holy” or “God has great plans for you”. Please don’t be God’s advocate. Bible says “My (God's) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my (God's) ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
- Don’t preach like charismatic to a sick person especially saying that sickness is a result of your sin or the curse handed down though your ancestors, work of the devil in your life, etc.
- Remember every sick person prays silently to God, if that is not visible then please remember that his/her body prays silently. If God has given you life then he gives grace to fulfil it too.
- Everyone is a theologian in sickness. S/he knows make sense of his/her terminal illness. On of the Church Fathers of the Eastern Church Evagrius Ponticus says “if you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian”. - Treatise on Prayer, 61
- Speak with the person his topics of interest like, politics, economics, literature, music, films, art, spirituality, history, science, cosmology, new technologies, etc. and please not your topics. The patient intentionally wants to divert his/her attention from sickness s/he is suffering from. Perhaps you might like to recall wonderful things that you did together when the person was in good health, or narrate part of a happy incident.
- If you have no time visit the person, one of the loveliest things you can do to the sick person is pick up the phone and call him/her. That may be right moment the person is waiting for some sort of solace or consolation. Or else send a text message or a card saying that “I am with you”, “ I am thinking of you”, “I’m remembering you in my prayers,” etc,.
- You can’t cure the terminal illness: Please don’t say “you have tried this”, “you have done enough of medications “ “now no use”, etc.
- No solutions please. Don’t try to lead the discussion to the terminal disease the person suffering from. Always try to divert to other topics.
- If possible have some laughter with the person. Crake a suitable joke or narrate a numerous incident that took place.
- Olvin Veigas
29 Oct. 2018